Forests of Hope site - Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, Malaysia
Site name: Belum-Temengor Forest Complex
Location: Perak State, Hulu Perak District, West Malaysia
Site area: c. 320,000 ha
Partner: Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)
Values of the site
Belum-Temengor contains one of the largest contiguous expanses of forest in Peninsular (West) Malaysia, which is among the world’s most biologically diverse regions. The forest in Malaysia is contiguous with the smaller Bang Lang National Park and Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary in southern Thailand, making this whole block one of Asia’s highest priority areas for biodiversity conservation.
It contains a range of forest types characteristic of the Sundaland forests of Peninsular Malaysia: Hill Dipterocarp Forest, and Montane or Submontane Forest. The forests contain many plant species endemic to the northern part of the Peninsula, including Rafflesia azlanii, 46 species of palms (15 endemic), over 30 species of gingers, rare limestone flora and many others.
Belum-Temengor also contains an extraordinary megafauna. It is home to 101 mammal species including Tiger Panthera tigris, Malayan Tapir Tapirus indicus, Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Gaur Bos gaurus, Malayan Sun Bear Helarctos malayanus, Asiatic Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, Sumatran Rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis and Malayan Water Shrew Chimarrogale hantu; most of these are threatened, the rhinoceros being Critically Endangered.
It is an exceptional site for birds; 316 bird species are known so far, in particular all 10 of Malaysia’s magnificent hornbill species, for which it may be the world’s richest site in terms of species richness and large populations: nowhere has more hornbill species, and only the forests of far northern West Malaysia, and possibly contiguous forest in Thailand, hold as many. The reptile, amphibian and freshwater fish fauna are equally impressive.
Belum-Temengor supports significant populations and settlements of the indigenous peoples of the Malay Peninsula, or Orang Asli. A range of sociological and tourism studies have been and continue to be carried out in the complex, to meet the urgent need for more detailed socio-economic data to support management of the site, including the livelihoods of the people who live there.
Key threats at the site include:
- Illegal wildlife hunting and collection of agarwood (a dark resinous heartwood, highly valuable)
- Commercial logging
- Land conversion and infrastructure development, often for plantations and agriculture.
Historical conservation approach
Forest management and conservation at Belum-Temengor has been based on land allocation to a series of categories, affording varying degrees of protection.
State Park: As a result of campaigning by MNS and others, the Royal Belum State Park was legally gazetted as a protected area covering 117,500 ha in 2007. It is managed by the Perak State Parks Corporation. The remaining two-thirds of Belum-Temengor (almost 200,000 ha) remain unprotected.
Forest Reserve: Temengor (148,000 ha), Lower Belum (or Banding; 16,000 ha) and Gerik (35,000 ha) Forest Reserves are managed by the Perak State Forestry Department. These designations do not constitute permanent protection. Within the legal framework for forest reserves in Peninsular Malaysia, Permanent Forest Reserve includes 11 different forest classifications (of both production and protection values), including Production Forest for timber extraction. Over half (80,000 ha) of the Temengor Permanent Forest Reserve is allocated as Production Forest.
Other categories: State Land covers 1,500 ha under the jurisdiction of the Perak State Economic Planning Unit, while the 17,200 ha, dendritic Temengor Lakeis managed by electric utility company Tenaga Nasional Berhad.
Conservation initiatives of MNS have included two Scientific and Heritage Expeditions in the (then) Belum and Temengor Forest Reserves, the development of Management Guidelines for Proposed Belum Nature Park and Integrated Master Plan for Belum-Temengor, the MNS Hornbill Conservation Project, the Belum-Temengor Conservation Initiative, Belum-Temengor Postcard Campaign, and a Forest landscape governance programme along the East-West Highway (which cuts through the forest complex).
New conservation approach
The MNS Belum-Temengor Conservation Initiative advocates protection and integrated management of the whole forest complex. Legal protection through a range of governance systems is important, but additional approaches are needed to sustain the conservation of the forest in the long term.
It is classified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area of the highest rank under the second National Physical Plan, and its protection would be in line with Malaysia’s National Policy on Biodiversity and A Common Vision on Biodiversity. The Government of Perak State is open to reappraisal of logging needs in Temengor, and the project will capitalise on this to reduce or stop logging through a phased approach.
In recognition of these needs, a process to develop a Belum-Temengor Integrated Master Plan by the Perak State government, working with Perak State Forestry Department, has been ongoing since October 2008 and a draft Plan has been presented to the State Government; MNS played a crucial part in developing the ‘natural resource’ component and will continue to support implementation after the Plan’s adoption. A fully protected Belum-Temengor Forest Complex could, perhaps in conjunction with transboundary Thailand and other Perak forests, become a World Heritage Site.
In 2012, MNS established the Gerik Conservation Resource Centre in the nearest major town to engage its residents, schools and other local stakeholders as part of its long-term communication and education strategy. Involvement of the indigenous Orang Asli in tourism development and monitoring activities within the legal and regulatory framework in Malaysia is limited, as prescribed by Malaysian law. However, other roles and mechanisms exist in engaging with them. For example, conservation programmes such as the MNS Hornbill Conservation Project and WWF-Malaysia Tiger and Rhino projects involve employment of the Orang Asli to support conservation action; the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia has also carried out work with Orang Asli.
Towards generation of a suitable financing mechanism, a preliminary Total Economic Evaluation has been carried out by MNS which revealed carbon financing, nature-based tourism, forest certification, or an endowment grant or trust fund are all potential sustainable funding sources for the site.
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